Proposal for hemp crop in Hunter

Industrial hemp could become a $4million crop in the Upper Hunter.

Agricultural company EcoFibre Industries Operations has revealed plans to make the region a processing hub for the product.

Managing director Phil Warner said industrial hemp would work as a rotational crop in the Hunter, with the region an ideal spot for the firm’s operations.

‘‘The Hunter Valley is a prime location for the demonstrated value-adding industries,’’ he said.

‘‘We think we could get up to 2000 hectares [of hemp-producing land] in the Hunter Valley within the next three years.’’

Industrial hemp is used in a variety of products, including viticulture insulation and as a replacement for kevlar.

Based on the European market, Mr Warner said the crop could yield an average of 13tonnes a hectare at prices of between $150 and $180 a tonne.

Those figures could put the prospective 2000-hectare Hunter industry’s value at $3.9million.

Mr Warner said the Hunter could also benefit from processing hemp into value-added products for the wine, mining and horse industries.

‘‘The main thing in the early stages when we’re only doing minimal processing is that in the Hunter, you’ve got an immediate market on your doorstep,’’ he said.

Consultant agronomist Neil Nelson, who has investigated the feasibility of commercial hemp production in the region, said early signs were promising but producers would ultimately decide if it was worthwhile for them.

‘‘It will grow in the Hunter, there’s no question about that,’’ Mr Nelson said.

‘‘It’s down to dollars and cents [for individual farmers] at the end of the day.’’

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